Thursday, December 18, 2008

Attack of the Flying Killer Bunnies

Pugs in night-commuter mode

Things have dried up around here and I'm able to cut across the golf course on my way home from work without damaging the fairways. It's usually 11pm or later by the time I pass through so the green-keepers are all tucked-up in bed and I've got the place to myself.

There's a section of my golf-course bombing run where I get up as much speed as possible going down one side of a hill so I don't have to pedal up the other side. It's not dangerous, but I have to ride it like a downhill run because although the grass is cut, the terrain's full of bumps and hollows that would send you over the bars if you weren't concentrating. 

So I'm motoring down there last night in the pitch-black, my headlight doing a pretty poor job of illuminating my path at speed when I see what I thought to be a large group of rabbits in front of me. I can barely make out the small dark shapes and I'm pretty sure it's not a pack of miniature Dobermans (I've made that mistake before) so I relax a bit and go for it. Despite my worst intentions my fluffy little golfing friends have always avoided my wheels in the past. 

This is when things turn bad.

I am almost on top of them before they sense my presence and in a panic they take off in all directions. Now when I say say "take-off" I don't mean hopping along the ground as you would expect. These rabbits were launching themselves into the air in a frenzy of beating wings as I scythed through their flock at over 40kph. Several pass through the beam of my headlight and I can feel the wind off their wings as I duck my head for cover. 

The still night air is broken with ear-piercing screeches and squawks but I somehow manage to make it through unscathed, hit the bottom of the valley and coast up the other side to safety. 
I keep the pace on all the way home wary that Satan's winged avengers have tasted my fear and may well be watching me from above, ready to attack again. 

I tell you, the life of a bike commuter is rarely without incident. These things just don't happen when I drive my car.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The day I helped win the Half-Ironman World Championship

A fews week ago I was riding to work on a slightly longer route than I normally take. I can avoid a nasty wee hill if I go a little bit out of my way. It was such a nice morning I was enjoying the sunshine for as long as possible before being entombed in a windowless building for twelve or more hours and emerging in the dark of night for my ride home. 

I'll set the scene;

Location: A quiet suburban street. It's all uphill, but not too hard going - middle chainring stuff. The odd car, but a pleasant ride because the road is wide and you don't need to concentrate too hard. The upper portion borders a golf course with nice views of the harbour.

Equipment: Ancient mountainbike covered in black electrical tape sporting fenders and a rear rack with my lunch, dinner and raincoat precariously bungied to it.

Attire: T-shirt, cargo shorts, sandals and socks.

Rider: Emaciated 42-year-old caucasian.

Demeanor: Both hands on the bars but not concentrating on the road at all. Instead looking at the houses beside me to identify a new acquaintance's abode. Totally in world of my own I was whistling a tune, either audibly or inside my head, I can't be sure.


I just about lost control of my bike. Partly from the shock of being woken from my daydream, but more from the enormity of the occasion.


I'll repeat it again in-case it hasn't sunk-in yet: 

I've just typed it out but I still can't believe it. Only the second time this has happened in the past two years and the first time I was pulling Carla in the trailer, so I had the "cute kid factor" working for me.

You should have seen him, he was gorgeous. All sleek and tanned and wrapped in Lycra like a shrink-wrapped Adonis. It's enough to make you change teams... and the bike, the bike! A time-trial Specialized in featherweight carbon fibre contorted and distorted to cheat the wind - my lunch weighed more. 

I made my move and accelerated up the road to ride alongside him. I had to talk more with this rare breed of road-rider. I call this technique "Aggressive Friendliness". I'm finding the older I get, much like my father, I can talk to absolute strangers about absolutely nothing with comparative ease, despite my natural shyness.

Well we chatted for what seemed like hours for a minute and a half, mostly about absolutely nothing, but cycling was mentioned at times. I was having some trouble talking, breathing and remaining upright on the bike all at the same time, so it was with some relief that we reached the top of the hill and parted company in opposite directions.

As we were talking it dawned on me who he was - local triathlete Terenzo Bozzone. Even his name is sexy.

The impossibly handsome TB and his plain girlfriend

I have seen him out running on many occasions over the years but have not recognized him on a bike before. The lycra-cowboys all pretty much look the same to me with their matching shades, helmets and shoes.

New Zealand is blessed with an abundance of talented multi-sport athletes. Although Terenzo was a double Junior World Champion in both Duathlon and Triathlon two years in a row, he failed to make our three man triathlon squad for Beijing. Well he didn't sit around and sulk, this week he went out and won the Half-Ironman World Championship in Florida and that was the impetus to write this post. It's not often you meet a World Champion, let alone ride with one (although coincidentally the surgeon who rebuilt my ankle was also a Duathlon World Champ). 

I'm sure the old guy on the beat-up commuter bike was in the back of his mind as he left the water for the 90km cycle stage. "If he can keep up with me on that old bike and talk so much crap I had better ride faster if I'm gonna win this thing". Despite the title of this post I accept no credit for his victory, but I know in my own small way I played a part ;^)

Well done Mr Bozzone, and if you need another training ride when you're back in town drop me an email. I'll ride the Pugsley next time to keep you honest.

New Zealand won Triathlon silver in Beijing and the Gold/Silver quinella four years earlier in Athens. I hope Terenzo makes the team for London and brings home another Olympic Gold. It couldn't happen to a nicer roadie.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feeling unco

Arriving home from "official" unicycle club after school. My D.I.Y. trailer extension is a bit overloaded here and tends to push up on the hitch when I have this much weight in it. Really needs the axles moved further back.

Not much has been happening on the cycling front this month apart from the usual trips to the park with Carla and commuting to work.

The unicycling obsession has continued though and despite horrific injuries to the backs of my legs, my groin and my pride, I have persevered and am finally making some progress. It's not like me to stick at something I'm not enjoying but I am determined to give it a good shot while we have the use of loaner "bikes". We are not in a position to buy any at the moment, but if the kids really get into it I might keep an eye out for second-hand ones at the right price.

I have managed to stay on for 80 - 100 metres on a few occasions and tonight rode for a very wobbly 60 seconds. I'll take that as progress even though I don't feel confident at all and zig and zag all over the place.

Laugh if you must! I'm going to need crutches sooner or later anyway. An hour of this got me traveling further without constant restarts and I'm riding unassisted now.

Riding through our local park on the way to school for a unicycle practice. The school is great as it has large areas of flat asphalt and lots of handrails to grab onto when you are first learning.

Hunter and Finn have not put as much time into practicing as I, but are coming along great. Finn has ridden 40 metres or so and Hunter about 10. It seems to be a mind-over-matter thing as some days you can't ride more than a few feet and start to get angry with yourself, and other times you can ride a considerable distance with relative ease. 

It has been hard on my body though! The backs of my legs are covered in scrapes and pedal-bites from the inevitable wipe-outs. I usually land on my feet but sometimes the uni gets stuck underneath you and you fall on top of it. The other problem is the "jumping off to save myself routine" really aggravates my bad ankle. Its been a year since the operation and I'm sitting here typing this with my foot in a bucket of ice-water to bring the swelling down. That's after only an hour of practice, but once I get the hang of it I think the ankle will cope. I don't get much pain cycling anymore until after a long ride.

Hunter makes the "gap".

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A week of bicycling

Lots of riding done this week. Commuting duties, daughter hauling, food shopping, two lots of mountainbiking and unicycle training. My legs are all worn out!

A visit to Lake Pupuke to look at the movie set of "Under the Mountain" being taken down.

My sons have joined the school unicycle club and have loaner bikes (they're not really bikes, are they?) to get the hang of it. How cool is that, a primary school with a unicycle club. On mondays the school bike-rack has as many unicycles as bicycles locked-up in it.

Have you ever tried to ride a unicycle? I'm giving it a go as well, but seem to have made no progress at all, it's damn hard. I can ride a two-wheeled bike on one wheel no problem, but I'm finding it a great challenge on the real thing. A circus career is some way off. 

I have learned one thing: When you start to fall, don't try and catch the unicycle. I read this on some internet instructions and ignored it to my detriment. I ended up in a pile on the garage floor with the uni on top of me and a gored leg from pedal-bite. I will let it drop next time! 

Surly actually make a muni (mountain-uni) called the Conundrum which has the same Large Marge/Endomorph wheel as the Pugsley. Now that would turn some heads.

Bad drivers with small penises and stupid vehicles have made it down to our corner of the South Pacific. Look how this mental-midget has parked across the footpath.

I took Thursday off work to look after the boys as it's school holiday time and we went out to Woodhill Forest to the mountainbike park. Finn and Hunter aren't keen cyclists but they enjoy riding out there and we had a lot of fun together. 

Finn and I got shown-up by eight-year-old Hunter attempting every jump and structure he came across, so we were shamed into trying some of them. I rode a lot of stuff that I would normally avoid and gained some confidence, but I think one metre off the ground is about my altitude limit. I must be getting old.

Thing-Two stealing water from my Camelbak

I went out to the same forest yesterday with my friend Murray and had a good 2.5 hr ride at a much faster pace. Last night my thighs were sore like I'd been to a gym or something, but I feel fine today. The great thing about Woodhill is it's a plantation pine forest effectively planted on coastal sand dunes, so the soil is very free-draining, even in the middle of winter, and just about never gets muddy.

The park is run as a business and you have to pay to use it, but the trails are fantastic and well maintained. It's $6 for adults and $4 for ten and overs which I think is reasonable. If it was more expensive I would go less.

Showing-off for the camera

Monday, September 22, 2008

I want to ride across the harbour bridge!

They say there is enough room to add an extra lane. It would be a tight fit.

More Lycra than the Olympics out there

This Sunday I attended a rally in support of bicycle and pedestrian access to our only harbour crossing, the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Well that's not quite true, there is an "upper" harbour bridge, but it's so far away from downtown Auckland you are more or less driving around the entire harbour to cross it. I had to drive my car over the bridge to get there with Pugs on the bike rack, which is the whole point I guess. It's either that or ride miles out of my way for an expensive ferry trip.

I'm not involved in any kind of bike advocacy but I do support our local organization, Cycle Action Auckland. One of their major initiatives at the moment is lobbying for bike and pedestrian lanes to be included in the planned bridge renovation. Basically the outside lanes need to be strenghened before they plunge into the ocean in a shower of rust particles. They say it is perfectly safe, but only allow trucks on the inner lanes. How very reassuring!

The bridge was completed in 1959 and links North Auckland with the city, much like Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was badly planned from the start and 49 years on the bureaucrats making the decisions are still small-minded and not looking to the future. The original structure opened with four lanes, two in each direction. Your next door neighbours' dog, with a brief introduction to town planning, would have worked out that wasn't going to be enough. 

In 1969 two lanes were added to each side, doubling the number of lanes from four to eight. The sections were manufactured in Japan and immediately nicknamed the "Nippon clip-ons".
Despite the doubling in capacity the thing is always gridlocked at rush hours, just as it was when I was a child in the 70s, and they still didn't include footpaths or bike lanes. The original design had them, but they were removed for budgetary reasons. How dumb are these people?

I was a bit disappointed with the turn-out. I'm guessing there was only 500 people or so, in a city of more than 1 million. That goes to show what a car-centric society we are. 
Still, It was good to hang out with fellow cyclists and realise I am not the only one commuting by bike, as it often seems. 

As we say in New Zealand - "I don't think there's a shit show of it actually happening", but you have to stand up for what you believe in, right?

Some local politicians got up on stage to massage votes out of the crowd. One from the Act party suggested "user pays" was the way to go, and cyclists should be charged a toll to help pay for the work. I'm surprised he wasn't stoned there and then and thrown off the top of the bloody bridge - it was in walking distance. 

The Viaduct Basin with Auckland City in the background. Architects shield your eyes.

The speeches were short and sharp and it was such a nice spring day I went for a ride along the waterfront to downtown Auckland. It was great to see so many cyclists on the roads. The majority were Lycra-Cowboys (my term for roadies) but I saw a real variety of interesting machines. I've got a bit of a thing for folding bikes and I saw a couple of Birdies, some space-age looking Giant Half-Ways (with single-sided front and rear forks) and even my first Rivendell. 

Just lovely, all lugs and shininess. I thought of Doug's new stead.

I cruised through an area we call "The Viaduct" where the America's Cup was hosted before New Zealand sailors won it for the Swiss and took it to Spain ;-)
It's full of caf├ęs and bars, and the rich (and those without children) sit there and look out in envy on the yachts and floating gin-palaces of the even richer. 

It was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and really made me think how great it would be to be able to ride over here from home with the family without having to use the car or sell a child to afford the ferry. We don't have rail and you can't take your bikes on the bus. There are no other options.

Here's hoping the bureaucrats see the light.

Looking back towards Devonport on the North Shore from downtown Auckland. I'm normally on the top of one of those little hills looking back this way.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Not a cyclist, but I do ride bikes

I haven't done any mountainbiking lately or long road rides, but I am on my bike most days, if only to pop down to the shops or commute to work.

The Nasty Evil Bike waits impatiently for my morning commute. 

We don't have many bike lanes in Auckland, there is no rail in my half of the city, the buses don't have bike racks and you can't ride across the harbour bridge, but you are permitted to ride in the transit lane and get flattened by a bus. Here I am taking the midget assassin to the doctor.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Le Tour de Poo

I haven't been riding the Pugsley much lately as the weekends have been busy with family stuff and the weather has been so rotten. The first half of winter was dry but it seems like in the last three months it hasn't stopped raining. 

Today I had some rare time to myself so I went out for a ride along the beaches despite the wind, the cold and the threat of rain. 

I call this regular route the Tour de Poo because between each beach in the East Coast Bays of Auckland there is a sewer pipe that runs along the bottom of the sandstone cliffs. Makes sense from an engineering point of view to keep it at ground level around each headland but it's hardly a scenic asset. To lessen the visual impact most of it has been covered in coloured concrete shaped to look like natural rocks. At least it would look like rock if you were stumbling home from the pub with a skinful. I think most sober folk would realise that rocks don't run in such straight lines and sandstone doesn't have manhole covers.

On these beach rides I normally don't even need to put a foot down. Sand, streams, stairs, rocks and small children can be ridden over with minimal effort on a Pugsley. My recent lack of off-road riding was highlighted today as I managed to fall over executing a turn in soft sand at no more than 1 kph. Luckily the beach was deserted and no one saw me. How embarrassing.

Pugsley Tip #1:  Don't turn in a tight radius when you are in the soft stuff

There are sections between some bays where even at low tide you can't get around the coastline at sea level. There is a path up and over the cliffs but shouldering a Pugsley up hundreds of stairs is not an option for this weakling. I prefer to go inland slightly and ride on the roads. I love grunting up steep hills but the winter clothing I was wearing today was just too hot. It was fine on the beach in the wind but I was cooking buy the time I got to the tops of the climbs. I really need some sort of lightweight, windproof jacket instead of the thick polar-fleece I had on today. Another bike related purchase I'll add to the wish-list.

On the return leg the tide had come up very fast and I got a bit wet as the sea was really churning and it was hard to judge when the waves were going to break over the path. 
To top it off about ten seconds after I had taken the photo above a rogue wave broke over most of me and all of the Pug. The camera was dry but I got a good soaking and the Pug got a longer shower than usual when we got home.

I procrastinated for an hour before I got out the door today but as usual had a lot of fun riding in the stormy conditions. I think as long as you're warm it can be more enjoyable than in good weather. There are less people around and you don't over-heat. A bit like running in the rain.

Still, summer brings better visibility, girls in bikinis and icecream stops, so I will attempt not to enjoy these winter rides so much in the future ;^)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The eternal problem of getting your baguettes home on a bike in one piece has been solved.

Experimental Baguette Transportation Device outside the Baguette Dispensing Facility.

Baguette Obtainer Of The Year [BOOTY] in action.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ellsworth Ride Ride

I had the chance to go for a quick carpark test ride on this big-dollar Ellsworth Ride cruiser while buying some tyres and tubes for the Cross-Check at my LBS. I like cruisers but it's too hilly in my part of Auckland for this type of bike and I'm always too tall for them anyway. 

The bike has some interesting features like the integrated rear fender but it was the rear hub that caught my eye.

I was curious how the NuVinci "geared" hub would ride after reading good reports about them. You just twist the controller and the gearing changes in a completely linear fashion, no steps at all. It was super-smooth and seemed to have a wide enough gear range but you had to twist the controller more than once to go from the lowest to highest ratio. Either that or the grip on it was slipping.

I think these hubs have a big future on city bikes and if they can get the weight down they would be great on all bikes.

Midget photographer's assistant wanders into frame

I like the internal cable routing

One-piece carbon-fibre bar/fork

Monday, August 4, 2008

Shiny New Things

The Cross-Check project finally made some progress when my frame and wheel-set arrived last week from Christchurch after an agonizing two month wait. Life moves at a different pace in the South Island and I tried to be patient, but being from Auckland I wanted it Now, Now Now! 
In the south they call Aucklanders JAFAs (Just-Another-Fucking-Aucklander) and although it's a bit harsh, it's fairly accurate. You tend to get a lot of wankers in big cities.

I have been buying parts over the last year or so for what was going to be a Surly Big Dummy build but making sure I could use them on other bikes if that plan didn't eventuate. It didn't eventuate! I would still love a Dummy but I need a more versatile bike that can do long road rides, around town stuff and the obligatory commuting duties. 

In a couple of years when Carla can ride on the back I may still get a longtail of some sort. Maybe even an Xtracycle for the Nasty Evil Bike. The deciding factor was a Big Dummy would not be practical for riding to work as when I got there I would have to lug it up stairs, ride it through a busy factory, negotiate fire-doors, offices and desks that I have enough trouble with on my MTB, and then it would take up an awful lot of space in the studio. For one of the worlds most practical bikes that would just not be practical. A folding bike would be more appropriate for my commute.

Back to the Cross-Check. It's black, shiny and sexy but it will be some time before it hits the road as I have many more components to purchase and I have Champagne tastes on a beer budget. I want to do it properly so I'll buy stuff as I can afford it.

In the photo above I'm rust-proofing the frame with a locally made aerosol lanolin product. I used it when I put the Pugsley together and have no rust in that frame after two years of beach riding, so I think it will do the trick. Much cheaper than importing Frame-Saver from the States. How Kiwi is that - sheep oil in my bike!

Racer X rear - I ordered an MI5 and got sent this. Looks the same, but I think it's an older model

For the hubs I went with White Industries. I wanted a classic look with MTB strength and the polished finish will match the SON generator hub I plan to get further down the line. They are just plain beautiful and I think I will have to drink heavily before I can bring myself to cover them in mud. Maybe a few road miles first to wear them in first. They are certainly the nicest bike part I have ever owned and I probably went overboard, but I look after my stuff and will be using them for years to come. You only regret buying quality when you are paying off your credit card.

MI5 front

Salsa Delgado Cross 700c rims

I wanted really strong rims for riding off-road and future touring but there is not much available in silver with a braking surface. These Salsa's looked suitably old-fashioned and have been used on 29er mountain bikes for years. They should be tough enough built up with 36 double-butted DT Swiss spokes.

I need to get a headset, stem and skewers next so I can piece these bits together and have something resembling a bike to hang in the garage. I already have a saddle, seat post, rear derailleur, bar-end shifters and some drop handlebars ready to go on.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who rents bikes?

Tramp's singlespeed outside the Auckland Public Library

I took my boys for a bus ride into the city centre on Sunday. We cruised around the art galleries, went to the library, checked out all the public sculpture, ate junk food and loaded-up on ice-cream. We had a good time despite the cold rainy weather. 

I'm not a public transport user and was pretty impressed with our new bus route into the city over the harbour bridge. It's a separate two-way bus lane for most of the way and is not affected by the congestion on the motorway. I wasn't however impressed with the expense. It cost me something like $18 for 1 adult and 2 children and it's only a 10 minute ride. I would have used about $5 petrol if I had used my car, but finding free parking in Auckland is a challenge.

$3 per hour or $15 for 24 hours. I think you pay with your phone somehow.

The photo above is taken on Auckland's Queen Street. The main street that slices down the centre of town. In the past year or so these hire-bikes have been available but I have never seen anyone actually riding one. Auckland City is a cold, wet place in winter. It's a hilly and dangerous place to ride around and although I applaud any cycling initiative I just can't see this business making money. I think over summer they might get some customers, but it's never going to take off. I wish them luck all the same.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fenders Rock!

I put some SKS fenders on the commuter bike 6 months ago and last night was the first time they've been used in anger. I've had a dream run in a typically rainy Auckland and apart from wet roads and a bit of drizzle I've managed to dodge the worst of it. That's until Wednesday night. Wednesday night it bucketed down.

What a difference they make. My back and bum were bone dry and my feet only got a little damp (despite wearing sandals!) because I was crashing through every big puddle I could find to test them out. A home-made mud-flap on the front should fix that, my next project. 

I remember riding my ten-speed in the rain to high-school in the 70s. The objective was to get as wet as possible and the ultimate was to soak people walking on the footpath as you rode through the torrent in the gutters. You didn't seem to mind sitting around wet all day when you were 13.

The Nasty-Evil-Bike sits outside the front door awaiting garage access

When I got the bike in the garage at home I noticed masses of grey sludge on the top of my rims. It looked like mud, but I soon worked out from the blackness of the braking surfaces my brake-pads had been dissolving on the mostly downhill run home. These are 15 year old MTB rims and they are rough as hell and almost worn-through. Little bits of aluminium occasionally come loose and embed themselves in the pads which makes a horrible scraping sound until I dig them out with the tip of a knife.  The wet weather braking is as good as the discs on my Pugsley but I'm a little nervous about a "catastrophic wheel failure" at an in-opportune time. Time to learn wheel building I feel.

Dissolved brake-pad and rim

Thursday, July 3, 2008


My online auction buy of the century! 

I've lusted after XTR for 15 years but have always been to sensible to pay the big dollars for it when XT or LX works just as well. I guess dollar reserve was not such a good idea for this guy. He told me he recently paid $200 for it.

*That's one New Zealand dollar, which is worth approximately nothing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rainy Day Cycling

Not a lot of cycling done this past month apart from my ride into work and back. It's been cold and wet but I've had a dream run on my commute, not even needing to don a raincoat yet. 

My days off looking after my daughter have been quite another matter. Long cold rainy days with no prospect of a quick trailer trip to the park or riding on the street. 

To beat the boredom and stay warm we have been heading to the garage to race our bikes around my car. You couldn't do this on a normal bike, there's just not enough room, but the A-bike is perfect. It takes nerves of steel to pilot a 6 inch wheeled bike at high speed on the slippery concrete floor whilst a two year old is trying to t-bone you at every opportunity. God knows what the neighbours think... manic bell ringing, shrieks of delight and the roaring of "bike monsters" can be heard echoing up the street. We really have a good time together and get some exercise as well.

The self-portrait taken while riding a bicycle is known as a "Panda" in Flickr circles. I may well be the first to pull it off successfully on an A-bike without requiring hospitalization. It handles like a two wheeled office chair on ice at the best of times.

This cracks me up. When I pulled out the Bickerton for a pre-race tune-up I put it upside down and grabbed a rag and a stool. Carla then flicks her trike upside down, steals another rag and found a block of wood to sit on. Bike obsession at 26 months old, I'm so proud!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The best $149 I've ever spent

Trailer Panda
This bike trailer has been so useful and was really cheap. I don't often say that about bike accessories in New Zealand.

A trip to the shops or to the local playground becomes an adventure not a chore. The handling is unaffected and you can barely tell you are towing it at all, just a little extra weight going uphill.

Carla and Dolly are captured here at high-speed, heading downhill on wet grass with road tyres and cantilever brakes.

You can't say I don't live life on the edge.

The Nasty Evil Bike

That's one ugly evil bike!
A cross between Darth Vader and a run-away chainsaw

Those of you who browse through my Flickr photos will be familiar with this beast. It was my first mountain-bike and was raced for 3 or 4 seasons in the early 90s. I did several painful (metric) centuries on it and it's now my commuter "beater" as the Americans say, complete with electrical-tape paint-job, fenders and a rack borrowed from the Pug. 

I call it The Nasty Evil Bike because it has tried to kill me on more than one occasion. The steering is lightning-quick and it is a real handful off-road. You don't get a chance to catch a front wheel drift or a locked-up front tyre, it just slams you into the ground! 

On the road it's more manageable as long as you don't take your hands off the bars or start relaxing. I have tamed the handling somewhat with the fitting of Schwalbe Marathon 2.0 tyres. They provide some relief from the too-stiff solid gauge aluminium frame and grip wet or dusty roads much better than the 1.5 slicks I used to have on there. 

Despite the physical and emotional scaring this bike has left me with I am quite attached to it. It has proven unbreakable and is doing a great job hauling me to work and lugging Carla around town in the trailer. 

With the suspension seat-post off the Pugsley it's pushing 35 pounds, which is laughable for a fully rigid aluminium MTB, but I just might keep it for another 15 years.

Not exactly the Iditabike

It's been in the family over two years now and I still love this bike to pieces. It hasn't lost that new bike allure and always makes riding fun. 

This afternoon I was cooking dinner and it was tasting a bit bland. I had half an hour to pick up some zing from the local supermarket and get back home before the kids arrived from school. 

Pugs to the rescue...

If I go by road there's a big hill in the way, but as long as it's not high tide I can ride from bay to bay along the beaches. Errand running doesn't get much better than a sunny ride along the beach in the middle of winter. I was back home and had the bike washed and dinner rescued before the family arrived.

Back from the beach
Pugs resting after a post-beach hose down

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Butt Service – aka: Why are all roadies assholes?

My digital camera has died, so with no new new pictures to post it's time for a rant.

In the lead-up to the singlespeed champs I was riding a lot more than I usually do. I even got a couple of half day passes from Margaret to go out for a two or three hour stint, which is unheard of in my normal weekly routine. It was great fun and I was happy to just be out there on the roads exploring some local areas I hadn't had a chance to look around previously. 

Now I'm a little shy, but when I see another cyclist I say hello or at the very least give a wave as we pass. I come from a motorcycle background and there's a real camaraderie in those circles. On the open road you always acknowledge other riders, be it a tattooed grandfather on a Harley or a skinny fifteen year old boy-racer hunched over his 125 like a dog humping a cricket ball. We are all having fun on two wheels and we are all targets for idiots in cars.
Mountain bikers are a bit like that too. Not as much as when I started in the early 90s, but they are still pretty friendly no matter what you are riding. 

Road riders on the other hand seem to have a chip on their shoulders. I suspect that a lot of the lycra-clad assholes I run into on my neighbourhood roads are not really "cyclists" at all. By cyclists I mean people who love riding bikes, and as an extension of that love the bicycle. 

I have a theory that a large percentage of these guys (and it's usually guys) are actually car drivers in disguise and are riding for two reasons only: 
1. So they can LOOK and BE cool (just like Lance except he's a cheating, lying bastard) and 
2. For the fitness benefits (substitute for dressing in lycra at the gym to LOOK and BE cool).

Now don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of road racing. I love Le Tour. I love their sleek carbon machines. Even though I don't want one I can appreciate how fast, light and efficient they are. What I don't like is the riders attitude. 

I did a little experiment on one training ride. I shouted out a friendly good morning to every rider I came across on my Saturday morning loop. The first thirteen riders passed within earshot without one single response. Not a nod of the head or the wave of a hand. Nothing! 
I don't know if the results would be different if I was riding a road bike instead of a monstrous purple mountain bike but by the time I got to Devonport I was getting a bit grumpy myself. 

Rider number 14

Rider number 14 was not going to ignore me. I was going to force him to talk! 
I met rider number 14 on a short steep access road on North Head. North Head is a small volcanic cone that was heavily fortified to protect our harbour in the late 1800s. I was riding up the road to the summit at 8.30am and there was not a soul around. It was dead quite and I was enjoying the pain of grinding a heavy singlespeed up this climb when a roadie slowly overtook me without saying a word and just kept on riding. I saw red. I put on a burst of speed to catch him and verbally assaulted him with friendly small-talk. I made a real effort to breath easy and disguise the pain I was in as I could see he was hurting. Once I got him talking he even mentioned that he had noticed I had no gears and my tyres were very fat. Shame he hadn't thought to mention that as we almost rubbed shoulders on the initial encounter. 

Well he seemed like a fairly nice guy once I got him talking so I let him off with an attitude warning and started for home... eight more riders were encountered without a single response. I got home a little depressed and formulated a plan. I'm not going to beat myself up trying to teach these people manners. That would be pointless. What I am going to do is fight them at their own game and wipe the road with their entrails. 

I'm looking at getting a Surly Cross-Check at the moment. It looks a bit like an old-fashioned road bike but is tougher and you can ride them off-road as well. Not as light as a road bike, but still pretty fast. Mine will have mudguards (fenders)... Mine will have a rear rack... Mine will have a case of beer lashed to the rack... That case will not contain beer but will contain polystyrene... It will be ridden by a tall skinny guy in casual clothes and sandals... That tall skinny guy will blow past these bastards uphill, traveling so fast that pursuit will seem pointless... That tall skinny guy will give the impression that he is not even trying... You can tell he's not trying by the size of the smile on his face ;-)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I have just sold my first child

Every now and then my wife reminds me (in that gentle but persistent way that they have, like a knife pressing between the third and fourth ribs) that my beloved motorcycle is sitting in the garage unused and I should really get rid of it. 

"How can I sell the most beautiful thing I have ever owned?" "How can I sell the bike I was going to keep for life?" "An Italian classic, a life long dream, an extension of my manhood..." 

I'll tell you how: Since the birth of my eldest son 10 years ago it's hardly got used, it's expensive to maintain and insure, and it's slowly deteriorating from sitting idle. I don't have any free time to myself to ride it for pleasure and it's too big and unpractical to commute on.

No Pedals Dad
The bike corner

Motorcycles have a similar appeal to bicycles for me. I've been riding them since I was 15 and they are a life long passion. It's that unbridled sense of freedom. Fresh air you can actually feel on your face. You can taste, smell and hear the world around you and there's no such thing as a traffic jam. 
If you like a bit of excitement in your life it also doesn't hurt that a reasonably priced motorcycle will out-accelerate a Porsche or Ferrari.

I first started cycling as an adult in the early 90's, not long after buying the Moto Guzzi above. What I really wanted was a trials motorcycle for off-road competition but that involved buying the trials bike, a trailer and a car to tow it with. I was working with road cyclists and mountain bikers at the time and was talked into getting a mountain bike instead and going racing. I was hooked! I'm still riding that bike to this day and I now have another obsession. 

So it's out with the motorized version and I now have a little extra cash to invest in one of the pedal-powered variety if I can get that knife out from between my ribs.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fear and loathing in Rotovegas

Post-race muddy Pug

Well, what can I tell you about the First New Zealand Singlespeed Championship experience?

Jeffson Singlespeed 36er
I rode a mountain bike with 36 inch wheels

Half the Pugsleys in New Zealand
Half the Pugsleys in New Zealand were racing (that's Dave the Surly importer on the left)

Singlespeed Pirate Tandem
There were pirates on tandems complete with hats and swords

Pre-race talent
Men had breasts

10 minutes to go to NZSSC1
Men had skin suits

Anika and Garth show off their winner's tattoos at the prizegiving
The male and female winners got tattooed and had to show them at prize giving 

There were also;
  • Fairies
  • Neon orange Boiler-suits
  • Cowgirls
  • Men in tutus
  • and a guy wearing silk boxers (that's all he was wearing!)

It wasn't quite as manic as I was expecting but the organizers did a fantastic job and a field of over 250 racers was impressive for a fringe sport in a little country like ours.

The start was a 200 meter run to your bike followed by 3 laps of a figure-of-eight course. Each half-lap was about 7 kilometers of amazing single-track, most of it ridable, and when you came back into the transition area you had to take the opposite side to the last one you rode on. This was confusing under race conditions and was made even more confusing by the consumption of a can of beer on each lap if you wanted to take a shortcut. I managed to get it right (and drank the beer at every opportunity) but a number of people made a wrong turn and ended up doing the same half of the lap again! It all added to the fun but a simpler format might be better for next year. 

My ankle was painful but held up and I finished the race somewhere down the back. That was OK, I was happy just to finish and the more social competitors pulled out at various times during the race to join the crowd and cheer on those still riding. 

One of the main sponsors was the Pig & Whistle pub so for a NZD$75 entry fee you got a movie the night before the race, vouchers for free beer at the bar, the race-pack, the prize giving party and a cooked breakfast at the pub the morning after the race. It was really good value.

The whole weekend was great fun and with any luck I'll be back next year in better shape for number two.